It is important to me that Straight Talk About Gay Parenting be as diverse as possible. I hope my readers enjoy my point of view on things, but I do realize that it’s a very small slice of the gay parenting pie. Unlike our heterosexual counterparts, the way in which we have children is as diverse as the community itself. For that reason, I’m going to really focus on “passing the torch” in the coming weeks, and focus on different parents telling their story from a very different angle than my personal story.
For that reason, it’s incredibly important that I hear from people out there that are reading this article. I want to keep the important topic of Gay Parenting fresh and inspiring and that means that if you’re reading this and you are a parent, this is your platform – it is your voice and your sub-community. If you are a gay parent, you have a very unique and inspiring story and I want to hear it, so please log on to www.raisingalek.com today, register with us, then send me your thoughts or your story. I get an email for every person who comments and I will contact you promptly.
In the meantime, it’s an extreme pleasure to sit down and talk with someone who I have been friends with for so long they are more like family to me than friends. Ted and Terry have a beautiful daughter who I have had the pleasure of knowing since birth. Unlike some of the recent families in the Meet the Parents series, Terry’s daughter is a teenager. Being a parent of a 4 ½ year old, I have no idea what to expect when Alek is a teenager, so hearing about parenting from the gay parents of a teenager’s point of view is one that’s particularly interesting to me.
Sam: Terry, I’m always interested to hear about how gay people have children and would like for our readers to hear from the top about how you and your husband Ted became parents.
Terry: We had been going to parenting classes with SD County adoptions for several months. As we were finishing up our classes, we decided to see if going through an attorney might be worthwhile. We met with an attorney that was referred to us exactly 3 months before she was born. We discussed our current life situation and what we expected and wanted. He took notes over our 2 hour meeting. We never spoke with him again (he didn’t ask for a retainer check) until the day before our daughter was born.
Sam: With Elizabeth now 16 years old, have the issues of being the gay parent of a baby or toddler changed with time as you are now the parent of a teenager?
Terry: The issues of being a gay parent to a newborn are the same as the issues of being any parent of a newborn—feed, burp, change, sleep and repeat. However, as the child begins to socialize outside the home (school, sports) new challenges arise for both parents and the child. The child could have issues in telling friends, classmates or teammates that she has two dads. To date, our daughter hasn’t expressed any hesitation in telling people (as they ask or where appropriate to mention) that she has two dads. Since she was a kid we’ve discussed with her some of the things other kids might say or to tease her, especially during middle school. She was well prepared when a kid says: “you don’t have a mom?” (answer: “how could I have been born if I didn’t have a mom?”), “having gay parents makes you gay” (answer, “you’re an idiot”), or “being gay is against the teachings of the bible’ (answer, “so is being an annoying prick”).
Sam: Actually, I think the Bible has a lot more to say about annoying pricks than it does about homosexuality, but that’s a different interview altogether. In 16 years, laws have changed, politics have changed. For a brief time, it was legal for gay people to get married which I know you and your partner took advantage of. Besides the obvious, being a legal and married family, how have politics changed your parenting and your family in the years since the day you first became a dad?
Terry: Our politics haven’t really changed but we became stronger in our political convictions and beliefs. We realize now more than 10-12 years ago how important it is to become involved in making positive political changes for all gay families. And we are in a better place now financially to help that cause.
Sam: Would you say that being a parent has made you an activist for gay rights?
Terry: Perhaps on a small scale…starting with your extended family, coworkers, etc. We find there isn’t enough time to be an activist on a larger scale.
Sam: What message do you believe is the most important message that the gay community needs to know about parenting?
Terry: Easy. It is possible if you want it bad enough. And, being a parent (gay or straight) is the hardest but most fulfilling challenge one can take.
Sam: If you had to do it all over again, is there anything you would do differently?
Terry: Get a prescription for Xanax. No, actually the only real thing I’d do differently is try to chill, relax and enjoy each stage of your childs life–instead of sweating the small stuff. Oh, and pick your battles.
Sam: That’s actually excellent advise on life… not just on parenting. From someone that has known you a long (long, long, long, long) time, I have to say that parenting has changed you for the better. Kind of the Galinda effect on Elphaba in the 2nd act of Wicked. Would you agree?
Terry: I am different now. I’m less selfish, more patient, less impulsive, more caring, less lazy, more empathetic, less ambivalent, more fulfilled, less self-centered…and….more gray hair.
Sam: If there’s one single trait or piece of knowledge or self-discovery that has impacted your life in a profound way that you have gained from being a parent, what would it be?
Terry: How truly remarkable it is to ‘create’ a child—childbirth is mind-blowing.
Sam: Do you think that the process of being a gay parent has taught you lessons in life that you might not have learned had you been a straight parent?
Terry: I am more tolerant and accepting of people different than myself than (the way I perceive) straight parents.
Wow… tolerance and acceptance. Kids teach us some pretty incredible lessons if we have the heart to listen to them, that is. Imagine if we as a country could learn those lessons right now. President Obama’s inspiring speech in Tucson the other night brought this topic to heart. I don’t have the years of experience that Terry has of being a parent and I don’t know if being a parent has changed me for the better, but because I’ve done this, I have been changed for good. Thank you Terry for your wise words.